Last updated: April 11, 2017
Nightmares aren’t just something that happens to kids.
Many adults report having nightmares that affect their sleep. If you’re having frequent nightmares, you could be losing valuable sleep. If you’re sleep deprived, it could be affecting other areas of your life. It’s not uncommon for those that report frequent nightmares to experience physical exhaustion and anxiety.
It’s important to understand why you are having nightmares so you deal with them before they become a problem. If you are dreading going to bed because of your nightmares, then it should be addressed immediately.
So what can you do if your nightmares are causing you issues? In this article I am going to give you some tips on how to stop having nightmares and reclaim your sleep.
Table of Contents
What causes nightmares
A nightmare isn’t just a bad dream. Nightmares can bring on deep feelings of fear, terror or anxiety. Many nightmares can bring you out of your sleep with those feelings continuing while you’re awake.
It still isn’t totally understood what causes us to dream and why some of those dreams become nightmares. Events that happen during our waking hours can influence our dreams, however.
Everybody has nightmares for different reasons, but there are a few common causes.
People that have dealt with some kind of trauma in their lives and suffer from PTSD are at high risk of frequent nightmares. PTSD is common in combat veterans, but can also be caused by a car accident, assault or witnessing a violent act. It’s understandable how some of these types of events could continue to manifest themselves in our dreams.
It doesn’t take a traumatic event to cause nightmares. There are many psychological triggers. Anxiety and depression can lead to nightmares. If your thoughts during the day are dominated by anxious or depressive thoughts, then they can also bleed into your dreams.
There are even some medications that can cause nightmares, such as high blood pressure drugs and anti-depressants.
More mundane causes can be stress for work, relationships, etc. or anxiety. Any recent big life event can cause some anxiety which is leading to some nightmares.
How to stop having nightmares
The most important thing you can do if you are having nightmares is to find the cause. Then you can see what steps need to be taken.
For instance, if you feel that you suffer from PTSD or depression, they need to be treated professionally. These are serious mental ailments and they are manifesting themselves in your nightmares. Cure the mental illness and your nightmares will subside.
If you feel like they’re caused by something less serious like lifestyle issues, then here are some ways you can stop having nightmares:
Check your medications
If you’re taking any prescription medication, then that may be the cause of your nightmares. Check the side effects for the medication and ask your doctor if there may be some relation between your meds and the nightmares. Your doctor will be able to make recommendations on what can be done.
Get better sleep
This may seem nonsensical. If your nightmares are causing you to lose sleep then how are you supposed to get better sleep to get rid of them? Well, your nightmares may have begun if you were/are sleep deprived.
Make an effort to take control of your sleep by setting yourself up to sleep well. Try essential oils, sleep supplements and generally making your bedroom a more relaxing environment. White noise machines can block out any distracting noises and a sleep mask can keep light out of your eyes. If you’re a snorer, that may be affecting the quality of your sleep and making you sleep deprived. There are devices that can help you stop snoring, so maybe start there.
If you’re stressed out it could very well be the source of your nightmares. Getting your stress out and your mind focused can do wonders for your sleep health.
Try meditating for 20 minutes or so before bed. Use some videos for ideas on how to meditate if you are new to it. Distressing is a matter of creating good habits to keep you from obsessing over whatever problems you have in life. Meditating is a very effective way to achieve this.
Don’t eat before bed
Eating just before bed increases your metabolism which makes your brain stay active. It may be your overactive brain that is causing your nightmares. Limit meals to a couple of hours before bed. Try not to snack after dinner, especially as bedtime approaches. Even if this is not the cause of your nightmares, you will find yourself sleeping better overall by cutting out late night meals.
Get some exercise
A great way to distress and to make sure you are tired enough to sleep is to get enough exercise. Try to do some light to moderate exercise at some point during the day. A brisk walk or light jog will get the blood flowing and put your mind right at the same time. Avoid working out in the evening as your endorphins will be flowing and your brain will be very active. That will actually prevent you from falling asleep.
Try to control your dreams
It may seem the stuff of science fiction, but you can actually control your dreams to affect the outcome. You can literally turn your nightmares into sweet dreams. It’s called lucid dreaming and it will help you combat your frequent nightmares. It is not easy and it does require practice and patience. Eventually, however, you will turn your dreams into your very own movie where you decide on the ending.
Start a dream diary
Often just confronting your nightmares and thinking about them in a clinical way is enough to keep them at bay. By writing them out in a diary, you can try to analyse your dreams and nightmares and may shed some light on what is causing them. If you can understand the cause of your nightmares, you can get to the root of the issue. Take it a step further and write an alternate ending of your nightmares. Focus on a happier ending and try to focus on that happy ending when you are getting into bed.
Talk to somebody about your nightmares
You may be embarrassed to tell people about your dreams. It can leave you feeling vulnerable. By talking to somebody, you can defuse the power that a dream has over you. By hearing yourself talk to somebody about them, whether your friend, partner or family, they seem to sound less potent. Suddenly you may not be so intimidated by your nightmares and eventually they could simply fade away.
Final Thoughts on How to Stop Having Nightmares
Everybody knows that we spend roughly 30% of our life sleeping. If you are stressed and tired during the other 70%, plus when you’re sleeping, then you’re not able to live a full life.Frequent nightmares are not the problem. They are a symptom of a problem that you are having. Getting rid of the root problem will eliminate your nightmares.
As a bonus, you are also fixing a part of your life that needed fixing. The nightmares were simply letting you know it’s time to take control of that part of your life.
If nightmares are causing you problems, then use this article on how to stop nightmares as a guide to take back your sleep.
If you need to spend 30% of your life asleep, then make sure those hours are spent in sweet dreams that make you feel great when you wake up.